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An Artist’s Notebook of Sorts

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Weak XVII

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24 April 2017

gratuitous image

No. 6,855 (cartoon)

I live on bourbon.

Bourbon Street in New Orleans?

No, just bourbon.

25 April 2017

Donald Dale Rinehart

Don Rinehart, my late father’s brother, died peacefully this morning before dawn. Aurora died almost the same time exactly a year ago. I’m glad I know enough about probability and statistics to know that’s nothing more than a coincidence.

In one of our last conversations, Don told me, “I’m falling apart and I feel great!” He was quick-witted the last time we talked a couple of months ago on his ninety-fifth birthday. I hope I’m doing that well a few weeks before I die. Even though ninety-five good years is by any measure a long life, I will nevertheless miss him; he was a mirror of my father.

He would have been proud to learn that instead of writing more I’m cutting and pasting some things I’ve written about him in the past and heading out to visit a lovely woman over a couple bottles of wine.

. . .

Uncle Don got drunk but it wasn’t his fault, not really. It turns out that the hostess was to blame.

“She just kept pouring me drinks,” he explained, “she just didn’t know when to stop.”

. . .

I’m visiting Don, my late father’s eighty-six-year-old brother, in Florida. The state is a fetid swamp, but my uncle did a great job of helping me ignore that unpleasant reality by plying me with bourbon while we played pool. After I proved to be an unworthy opponent, we decided to simply drink and talk.

We agreed that we felt immortal when we were young, a premonition that seems to have some basis in fact since neither of us is dead. Yet. Don said that attitude was prevalent in the forties when he and my father were in the navy fighting the Japanese. Don told me a story from those days that involves the kind of bravery only the immortals and the suicidal exhibit.

My uncle was on a destroyer in the South Pacific when Japanese planes attacked his ship. They may or may not have been kamikazes; we were getting to the bottom of the bottle when he described the battle.

Don and his shipmates fired every gun they had at the approaching Japanese planes. Now here’s the heroic part of the story: American fighter pilots were flying directly behind the Japanese planes, trying to shoot them down before they reached the ship. In practice, that meant that the Americans were intentionally flying into the same lead curtain as the Japanese.

It’s a fine line between suicidal and heroic behavior; I’m glad I’m no longer immortal enough to approach it.

. . .

I think that today is my father’s ninetieth birthday. I know that he was born on 8 April 1920, but I’m not exactly sure if it’s technically his birthday since he died in 1991.

His brother Don didn’t seem concerned about such details when he called to ask what I was doing to mark the occasion.

“I’m on my way to the airport to meet up with a beautiful woman flying in from London,” I reported. “I have a bottle of wine and snacks with me for the celebration.”

And then, there was an awkward silence.

“You’re not just taking one bottle, are you?” my uncle asked.

“Of course not!” I lied.

I got away with my unfortunate deception and learned my lesson.

26 April 2017

Hash Balls

When I asked Sarah what she wanted for dinner tonight, she said anything I cooked except frozen hash brown potatoes would be fine. I assured her that I’d never buy any prepared food that I could make better, then asked why she had that restriction.

She explained that frozen hash brown potatoes had been recalled because they contained shredded golf balls. The golf balls weren’t included intentionally as a cheap source of fiber; the potato-harvesting contraption scooped them up along with the tubers.

I thought she was overreacting. I’ve found bits of baseball gloves, tennis string, football shoes, et cetera in other processed food. I long ago accepted that finding bits of sporting equipment in my meals was the price I had to pay for convenience.

27 April 2017

Don’t Strain Your Eyes

I never met Deirdre’s mother, but I like her if only because of the advice she gave her daughter when she drove her to her first day of college: “Don’t strain your eyes, plagiarize!”

I liked her advice even better when I discovered that she more or less stole it from Tom Lehrer. It’s like Mark Twain’s watermelon: “The sweetest one I ever had was stolen.”

28 April 2017

Vito Hannibal Acconci

Another day, another obituary. This one’s for Vito Hannibal Acconci, one of my favorite artists. When I thought back on some of my favorite pieces of his, I realized that I was conflating him with Chris Burden.

Thinking back, my appreciation for Acconci goes back to a single afternoon decades ago when I saw a dozen of his short films; the viewing took less than an hour. He inspired me to make my own films, most of which weigh in at under a minute.

I’m tired of writing obituaries, so I decided to wait to remember Acconci until Burden dies. Joint obituaries represent a new level of sloth for me, so I’m rather pleased with myself.

I bragged to Roscoe about my plans, but he wasn’t impressed. He told me Burden died almost two years ago.

And that’s quite enough obituaries for this week; it’s time to get back to the land of the living.

29 April 2017

A Lucky Foot

Brett got lucky yesterday; he found a human foot in the trash. Brett has a great job collecting trash and recyclables. “A great job collecting trash” may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s not in San Francisco. Thanks to a monopoly and a strong union, Brett makes about a hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year including benefits.

Every day he spots human remains in the trash is a good day on the job, albeit not for the corpse. Brett has to stop work immediately and talk with medics, the coroner, police, and detectives for hours, then gets the rest of the day off.

Brett seemed quite pleased with the development, but his idea of a “good job” is the opposite of mine; that’s why I’m happily self-unemployed.

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©2017 David Glenn Rinehart

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